February 2015 Death Valley Service Project Reports

Three separate service projects were run by the Coalition of American Canyoneers (CAC) this President’s Day weekend, two within Death Valley National Park and one nearby. Kirk led 14 folks into Golden Canyon for a trash and poop clean-up. CAC supplied the trash liners and gloves and folks went after it. When it was finished, the results were a surprise. The canyon yielded a lot more trash than anticipated, especially the side canyons low in the canyon. The park has increased the scheduled frequency of clean-ups in the canyon. Kudos to all that participated.

The traditional campsite for the DV Fest, named Slabby Acres by Hank Moon, is an old abandoned mobile home park for mine workers. It sees much traffic year around, a small portion of it canyoneers. A general clean-up was organized by CAC, Dean Brooks giving out bags to all who wished to participate. About half of the 90 folks present gather and disposed of trash from near their campsites. This informal approach bore fruit and hundreds of pounds of trash from a large area made its way to dumpster’s far and wide. Kudos again

The third project was suggested by Death Valley National Park. The Wilderness Coordinator Charlie Callagan wanted to survey a not historic plane crash site. Here Charlie describes the crash….  We used GPS to mark the perimeters of the crash site. Some day, the debris may get removed. Perhaps not, but the information has been gathered and the site accessed. Nine members of CAC joined Charlie and Search and Rescue Ranger John Dormen. The group moved well over the complex, steep and loose slopes surrounding the crash site. The conversation was lively all day long.

After the survey was finished, the group descended further then found a non technical way into Hades Canyon, 9 rappels from the bottom. The group descended safely to the road. On the way conversations and demonstrations of techniques, style ethics, along with park goals, projects from the future, input for what is to be called a registration, not a permit system, that will not be implemented any time soon, we discussed in detail. So many good ideas and suggestions flew in every direction and a bond of friendship, respect and support was formed between CAC and DVNP, that service projects will become an annual affair. Thanks to all who volunteered.

CAC Board Member

Slabby Acres Cleanup

President’s Day weekend in Death Valley is the official kickoff of the canyoneering season for many canyoneers in the Southwest and beyond. It is always a festive group that descends on the unofficial site of the rendezvous affectionately nicknamed “Slabby Acres”. An abandoned Trailer Park just outside the park boundary, Slabby is not known for being the most pristine camp site. With it’s rows of cracking slabs, rebar traps waiting to gouge unsuspecting tires or legs and all manner of random sharp objects hidden in the soil, Slabby is a place you have to navigate cautiously. With its sprawling dimensions, proximity to the park and slightly higher elevation providing cooler temps, it is also the perfect place for the big party. Although not within the park’s boundaries, the potential for Slabby to be closed by land managers is a real concern. It is with these thoughts in mind that the CAC stepped in this year to try and make a difference.

Industrial strength trash bags and protective rubber gloves were donated by Coalition of American canyoneers and handed out to campers and canyoneers around the site and the fun commenced. For some reason, canyoneering attracts more than it’s share of those afflicted with some level of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Maybe it’s the attention to detail with serious consequences for error that draws us in. At any rate, tasking a group of canyoneers with an endeavor akin to a treasure hunt was an easy job. All were eager to join in, and soon the camp was buzzing with folks sifting through the soil and showing off their finds. Scrap metal, rusty nails, rotting rubber hoses and the like soon filled the bags. If prior years had been an exercise in denial, this year we faced the reality head on: This place was a MESS! All across the slabs, folks were scurrying and collecting bits and pieces. To passers-by, I’m quite sure it appeared that a large Easter egg hunt for the homeless had been organized. Exclamations ranged from “What the heck is THIS?” to “Wow, glad I didn’t step on THAT” or “Hey that’s not trash, I’m still wearing that!”. Partially buried rebar and pipe led way to the Feats of Strength event, with the best odds clearly on our own “incredible hulk”, Mike Cressman.

When the dust settled, Slabby had been transformed from a disgusting land fill into a pristine desert oasis. Well, OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it was certainly a step forward. As the revelers began to disburse on Monday, they left with a sense of accomplishment and pride in having made a noticeable improvement in their favorite February gathering spot. It was my pleasure to finish off the cleanup by gathering the filled bags of refuse into my trailer and hauling them to a more fitting locale…Vegas baby! Thanks to all who participated in this and other service projects over the weekend, and thanks to the Death Valley Rangers for their continued support of canyoneering and the CAC.

Dean Brooks
CAC Member